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by Bro. Jay Hochberg


A symbol of progressive advancement from a lower to a higher sphere, which is common to Masonry and to many, if not all, of the Ancient Mysteries. In each, generally, as in Masonry, the number of steps was seven.


The symbolic ladder used in the mysteries of Brahma. It had seven steps, symbolic of the seven worlds of the Indian universe. The lowest was the Earth; the second, the World of Re-existence; the third, Heaven; the fourth, the Middle World, or intermediate region between the lower and the upper worlds; the fifth, the World of Births, in which souls are born again; the sixth, the Mansion of the Blessed; and the seventh, or topmost round, the Sphere of Truth, the abode of Brahma, who was himself a symbol of the sun.


The ladder of the Kabbalists consisted of the ten Sephiroths or emanations of Deity. The steps were in an ascending series: the Kingdom, Foundation, Splendor, Firmness, Beauty, Justice, Mercy, Intelligence, Wisdom and the Crown. This ladder formed the exception to the usual number of seven steps or rounds.


The symbolic ladder used in the Persian mysteries of Mithras. It had seven steps symbolic of the seven planets and the seven metals. Thus, beginning at the bottom, we have Saturn, represented by lead; Venus by tin; Jupiter by brass; Mercury, by iron; Mars by a mixed metal; the moon, by silver; and the sun by gold. The whole is a symbol of the sidereal progress of the sun through the universe.


This ladder, belonging to the high degrees of Masonry, consists of the seven following steps, beginning at the bottom: Justice, Equity, Kindliness, Good Faith, Labor, Patience, and Intelligence or Wisdom. Its supports are love of God and love of our neighbor, and their totality constitute a symbolism of the devoir of Knighthood and Masonry, the fulfillments of which is necessary to make a Perfect Knight and Perfect Mason.


Among the symbols of the Rosicrucians is a ladder of seven steps standing on a globe of the earth, with an open Bible, square and compasses resting on the top. Between each of the steps is one of the following letters, beginning from the bottom: I.N.R.I.F.S.C. being the initials of "Iesus, Nazarenus, Rex, Iudaeorum, Fides, Spes, Caritas. But a more recondite meaning is sometimes given to the first four letters.


The symbolic ladder used in the Gothic mysteries. Dr. Oliver refers it to the Yggrasil, or sacred ash-tree. But the symbolism is either very abstruse or very doubtful. It retains, however, the idea of an ascent from a lower to a higher sphere, which was common to all the mystical ladder systems. At its root lies the dragon of death; at its top are the eagle and hawk, the symbols of life.


The symbolic ladder of the Masonic mysteries. It refers to the ladder seen by Jacob in his vision, and consists, like all symbolical ladders, of seven rounds, alluding to the Four Cardinal and the Three Theological Virtues.

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Last modified: March 22, 2014